Schools join up with college for better education

TWO special schools have joined forces with a college to boost special needs education in the county.

Fitzwaryn School in Wantage and Kingfisher School in Abingdon have joined with Abingdon and Witney College to form the Propeller Multi-Academy Trust, the first partnership of its kind in the country involving special schools and a conventional college.

Senior teachers hope that by joining forces it will make the transition from the schools to the college less stressful for children.

The trust hopes to create a common curriculum, with each school developing specialisms that can then be shared across the partnership.

The three bodies will also be able to share staff development and training, and benefit from the expertise and best practice of each other.

Abingdon and Witney College principal Teresa Kelly said they hoped to make the transition from school to college seamless.

She said: “It takes these youngsters a lot longer to get used to new environments, so from parents’ point of view it is going to be a less anxious time.

“It won’t be like they’re going to somewhere they don’t know.”

Fitzwaryn headteacher Stephanie Coneboy said: “We are all committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes for young people with special educational needs and we’re thrilled to be involved in building on what is already a strong relationship.”

In the new trust, which launched on February 1, the college and Fitzwaryn will sponsor Kingfisher, meaning they will pass on its expertise in further education.

The trust is chaired by Karyn Buck, a governor at the college.

She said: “The schools have worked in partnership for some time, sharing some specialisms, and that relationship will be much easier on a formal footing.

“Theoretically the schools will have a better buying power, but this is not about money, it is about using resources more effectively.”

Fitzwaryn, in Denchworth Road, Wantage, has 79 pupils aged three to 19 and the Kingfisher School, in Radley Road, Abingdon, has 75 pupils from as young as two up to 19.

The college teaches about 6,000 students up to the age of 25, around 380 of whom have special learning needs.

All three education providers have had an informal partnership for some time, which included working with the Department of Education (DofE).

The DofE praised the new trust, saying it was leading the way to “outstanding, responsive and highly specialised” provision for children and young adults with special educational needs.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood met children from the school at the college and said: “This partnership between three existing high quality teaching establishments is wonderful news for the local community, offering the pooling of resources, the development of a joint curriculum and coordinated teacher training.”

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